Lead Developer London 2018: not your usual tech conference

At FindHotel every employee has a budget for learning: it's money you can spend on anything that foster your professional skills, like online and offline classes, books, and conferences.

In the last 3 years, I allocated a significant slice of my own budget for attending the London edition of the Lead Developer conference, and this year wasn't an exception. I booked my ticket as early as February (the early bird gets the worm.. or, in this case, the early bird ticket!) and patiently waited for months for the conference to take place.

I flew to London on a Tuesday morning and spent the day wandering around the city where I used to live before moving to Amsterdam, enjoying some healthy nostalgia, in the context of a warm sunny day (30ÂșC) with a cloudless sky.

IMG_20180626_155311-PANORed buses on London Bridge

Conference Day 1

On Wednesday morning, I headed off to the conference's location. In the past years, it took place at the QEII Centre near Westminster; due to the number of attendees getting bigger and bigger (about 1100 people joined this year), this edition was held at the Barbican Centre, in the homonymous area of the British capital.

The registration (mostly automated via QR code) was smooth and I made it to the big auditorium where a massive stage was ready for the "show".

IMG_20180627_100051Lead Developer London at Barbican Centre

IMG_20180627_115043The stage at Lead Developer London

Pleased to find out that Meri Williams (@geek_manager) was going to be the MC once more, the day kicked off with an energetic keynote on containers by the brilliant Alice Goldfuss (@alicegoldfuss), which also made possible for one of my tweets (quoting her) to go "viral" :D

The day went on with many more talks covering many different topics: an engineering lead's day to day, empathetic code reviews, tuning the team's approach to work by removing friction, dealing with change (for both you and your team), scaling yourself, growing junior developers, and much more.

We wrapped the day with drinks and chats among attendees. I always smile finding out how similar the experience is for people coming at this conference for the first time: "Wow, this is so different from the usual super-technical conferences", "There is a great atmosphere, everyone is so nice to each other!", or "I really enjoyed the content, hope the next day is just as good".

Dinner with a view

A bit tired, I headed off to my hotel room, recharged myself and my phone, then found a spot for dinner. And I wasn't hoping to be so lucky in my semi-random choice:
IMG_20180627_220451View from a restaurant in Canary Wharf, London

After taking in as much as possible of such a wonderful view, I found my way to the bed for a deserved night of sleep.

Conference Day 2

Early on Thursday morning, I checked out the hotel and reached the Barbican Centre for the second and last day of the conference. The day started once again with a great keynote from Alicia Liu (@aliciatweet), who talked about the troubles that stress brings and how she tackled it through sport and meditation.

Being somewhat acquainted to the topic, I found it so important to have somebody talking openly about burnouts and mental health in the context of our jobs. It is critical to take care of ourselves, for the good of your own person and your team(s).

The day went by with more amazing talks, exploring distributed teams, legacy code, effective internships, goal settings, single page applications, and much more. Due to the schedule of my train (yes, train!) back to Amsterdam, I couldn't attend the closing session, but I've heard it was great!

Why this conference is special

The conference revolves around the topics of leadership, self improvement, team building and management.

It's rare to come across so much useful content that is often ignored and underestimated: everybody is so focussed on technology that we tend to forget about the humans behind it :)

A few random comments on the conference itself that I'd like to point out:

  • it's a safe space: nowadays it's pretty usual for conference to have a code of conduct, mostly cause everybody is doing it. At the Lead Developer conference it has been taken seriously since the first edition: I remember a speaker has been called out publicly for making fun of a programming language during their talk last year. While that might seem extreme, there is a general sense of safety and inclusiveness, which leads to having one of the most diverse and engaged audiences a conference can have.
  • food is good and healthy: while this is definitely not the reason why to go to a conference, it's great to see this is a well thought detail. The quality of the catering was really high, with various options to choose from for all diets (rest assured, though: there were desserts and they were awesome!)
  • quiet rooms + meditation coach: being at a conference can be stressful or overwhelming at moments, and it was nice to see that quiet rooms were present also this year, with the nice addition of a meditation coach! Quite a few people attended the sessions and that, in my eyes, is an important addition to the whole package.

Wrapping it up

They say "third time's a charm" but, for me, every single edition has been insightful and refreshing.

I look forward to next year's event, sure that it'll be another wonderful experience, and I can't help but recommend it to each person that has made the transition into a lead position or is thinking about it. Leadership/management is not a promotion, it's a career switch: this conference helps you make it possible.

If you couldn't attend the conference and want to have a taste of it before deciding whether to participate next year, all the videos are on YouTube.